Dodgy Berlin real estate deals have been discovered in the Paradise Papers. According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, a company called Phoenix Spree based on the Isle of Jersey has been buying Berlin property, forcing out tenants, putting up the rent, then sending the profits to offshore accounts where they pay little tax. Wondering why rents are going up and where that extra money is going? Now you know. Another trick highlighted in the Paradise Papers are so-called share deals. Investors avoid Berlin’s 6% property sales tax by buying shares in companies that own property, instead of the property directly. This trick robs the city of €100 million euros annually, according to the Berlin finance department. The Sony Center was sold for €1.1 billion in October under such a share deal. None of these tricks are illegal. They’re simply immoral.
The Berlin Police Academy in Spandau is in the headlines. An anonymous letter published in the Tagesspiegel alleged Arabic gang members were being accepted as recruits. A police union spokesman claimed gangs were grooming some of their members to get into the police academy, by holding them back from committing crimes to keep their records clean. Berlin’s chief of police, Klaus Kandt, says there’s no such infiltration going on. The anonymous claims were fueled by racism toward people from immigrant communities, he said.
Hasenheide, Kottbusser Damm, Karl Marx Straße will get bike lanes in spring 2018. They will be up to 2 meters wide, painted bright green, and separated from cars by posts in some places. Berlin getting another bike sharing company. O-Bike will soon place 500 of its yellow bicycles across the city. The city now has 5500 public bikes, and will have at least 9000 by the end of 2018. O-Bike will charge €1 for 30 minutes, €20 a month, or €80 a year – which could be an alternative to buying a bike.
Check out the temporary sculpture Monument in front of the Brandenburger Tor. It features three upturned busses, replicating a scene from Aleppo in Syria, where civilians hid behind busses to protect themselves from gunfire during the ongoing civil war. The sculpture will be parked in Berlin until November 26.
This episode was presented by Joel Dullroy and Maisie Hitchcock, and brought to you by Radio Eins.
Almost 200 cyclists blocked traffic on Oranienstraße in a protest after a cyclist was doored and seriously injured. O-Straße is the third most dangerous street for cyclists in Berlin. What would happen if we painted our own bike lane? Over 34,000 bicycles worth almost €20 million are stolen annually in Berlin, only 3.5 percent are recovered.
Air Berlin’s turbulent descent into insolvency has reached its end. At 10.45pm on October 27 the final Air Berlin flight AB6210 from Munich will touch down at Tegel Airport, and the airline will cease to exist. Lufthansa won the bidding war to take over the majority of the bankrupt airline. It will purchase 81 aircraft and take on around 3000 employees and integrate them into its Eurowings brand. Lufthansa will soon carry over 90% of domestic German air traffic. Don’t be surprised if ticket prices start going up. Time to take a train? The low-cost rail company Locomore has recently re-launched, offering tickets to Frankfurt and Stuttgart for €9.90.
Berlin authorities have cracked down on homeless people camping in Tiergarten, where the murder of a 60 year old woman sparked politicians to claim the park had become lawless. Evictions have taken place in other locations. A homeless camp of around 70 people was cleared out from behind the Berghain nightclub. The Neukölln district council chartered buses to take homeless people back to Romania and Bulgaria. The number of homeless people staying in shelters has risen from almost 8000 in 2013 to over 30,000 in 2016, and an estimated 2000 are sleeping rough on the streets. Rising rents are forcing more Berliners out of their homes.
Storm Xavier lashed Berlin with winds of 120 kilometres an hour on October 5. Public transport and flights were cancelled for most of the day, and regional train lines were cut for several days. Five people died from falling trees and car accidents, and 18 flamingos at the Berlin Zoo didn’t make it through the storm. How do storms get their names? You can pay €260.61 to name a storm. The money goes to climate research at the Institut für Meteorologie at Berlin’s Freie Universität. Sign up for one at http://www.met.fu-berlin.de/wetterpate.
Only weeks after Berliners voted to keep Tegel Airport open, Lufthansa has announced it will soon begin operating Boeing 747s at Tegel. Three 747 services will run daily between Tegel and Frankfurt due to high passenger demand following the Air Berlin insolvency. The airline will have to pay a €515 euro penalty per flight to land the noisy jets, none of which goes to the long-suffering residents of Pankow.
Following the German national elections, the Friedrichstadt Palast director Berndt Schmidt said supporters of the Alternative für Deutschland party should hand back their tickets. He later said AFD voters were welcome, but might feel uncomfortable in his multi-cultural, multi-sexual, multi-religious theatre. The AFD reacted by calling for Friedrichstadt Palast to lose 12% of its public funding. On Saturday October 7 the theatre was evacuated due to a bomb threat. Among the 1700 audience members were ten AFD supporters who were given tickets by their party.
Comedian and journalist Drew Portnoy tells us about his return to Berlin after several years away. The city has grown by the equivalent of two Bonns in that time and is feeling crowded. At least the Kottbusser Tor escalators are fixed.
Berlin-based refugee rescue charity Jugend Rettet is in trouble. The organization’s boat has been impounded by Italian authorities. Jugend Rettet says they are being bullied out of the Mediterranean.
Are you a freelancer in Germany? Our guest Henrietta Mehlis from the SMart freelancers cooperative has some tips. Don’t confuse your tax identification number from your tax number – they’re different. And don’t trust cheap health insurance. She is running a free info session as part of European Freelancers Week at 5pm, 11.09.17, at Betahaus. More info at www.smart-de.org.
Berlin is sending 28 representatives to the Bundestag after last week’s elections. Here’s the breakdown by party: CDU 6; Die Linke 6; SPD 5; Die Grünen 4; AFD 4; FDP 3. The Greens barely held on to Hans-Christian Ströbele’s seat after infighting. The CDU’s failed mayoral candidate Frank Henkel also failed to win a parliamentary seat.
Berlin also voted 56.1% “yes” in the referendum on whether to keep Tegel Airport open. The R2G coalition now has to decide how to react – ignore the non-binding result, or try to please Tegel fans and face huge legal challenges from businesses, residents and environmental activists. Die Linke released a study finding 30% of all flights to Berlin could easily be replaced by train journeys.
The offstage drama at the Volksbühne continues. Squatters occupied the theatre demanding that new director Chris Dercon be replaced by a collective directorship. They were evicted after rejecting a compromise to hold their art-action in the Grüne Salon.
Dan names and shames a Berlin startup, Your Superfoods, which is begging for volunteers to pack boxes instead of paying for staff.
This episode was presented by Maisie Hitchcock, Joel Dullroy and Daniel Stern, and recorded at the Comedy Cafe Berlin.
Tegel Airport fans won a referendum on whether the hexagonal Flughafen should stay open post-BER. The “yes” vote was 56.1%. But it doesn’t mean Tegel won’t close, as the federal and Brandenburg governments would have to agree. Renovation and residential soundproofing costs could reach a billion euros. Tegel supporters now want an U-Bahn extension as well.
The referendum happened on the same day as the German federal election, in which Angela Merkel’s CDU won almost a third of votes. Berlin voted differently: here the CDU won almost 23%, and Die Linke came second with about 19%. There were protests in front of the AFD election party at a venue at Alexanderplatz. The far-right party won 12% of votes in Berlin.
On September 24, 28,000 runners raced in the Berlin Marathon. Kenya’s Eluid Kipchoge won the race for the second time, but missed out on a world record by 35 seconds, The women’s race was won Gladys Cherono, also from Kenya. Another runner was Berlin’s former state secretary for security, Bernd Krömer from the CDU, who failed to appear at a parliamentary inquiry only two days earlier, claiming illness.
The popular street food market known as Thai Park was raided last weekend. A squad of police and Ordnungsamt officers shut down the food stalls in Preussenpark in Wilmersdorf. Thai Park is still happening, but more raids are possible. The local CDU councillor said the food market must be either cleared away or legalized.
Berlin is a city with over 2.4 million rats. Lately they’ve been sighted more frequently as heavy rain has flushed them out of the drains. Several playgrounds in the north of the city have been closed due to rodents. A slightly more unusual pest, the invasive red American crayfish, has been seen scuttling along the paths in Tiergarten. More than 3000 crustaceans were caught as part of a recent eradication program.
This year’s Lollapalooza festival at the Hoppegarten race track ended in S-Bahn chaos. There weren’t enough trains to handle the crowds. Trains arrived already full of revellers from an Oktoberfest nearby. Police closed the packed S-Bahn station for several hours. The S-Bahn blamed the festival organizers for not paying for extra trains. Next year Lollapalooza will move to Olympiastadion – the third time it has had to relocate.
Want to buy Air Berlin? You’ll have to pay more than the current highest bid – half a billion euros. Air Berlin’s pilots aren’t making things easy for the airline. This week 200 of them called in sick on the same day to preemptively protest the possible pay cut they’ll face if Lufthansa takes over.
Ryanair has been stirring controversy by paying for election ads for the FDP supporting the pro-Tegel referendum campaign. The giant blue billboards featured Ryanair’s logo, which is possibly illegal. The Reinickendorf local council threatened to ban the sponsored ads. The FDP eventually covered up the Ryanair logo with censored stickers.
This episode was presented by Maisie Hitchcock and Dan Stern, and brought to you by RadioEins.
This episode was presented by Maisie Hitchcock and Daniel Stern, and brought to you by Radio Eins, Berlin’s public broadcaster.
Comedian Caroline Clifford signed up as a bicycle food courier to earn extra cash. But she found the income depends on cycle speed and can be €5 an hour or less, especially as customers don’t tip.
Germany’s federal election is on September 24. So far it’s a dull campaign. But as Konrad Werner explains, in today’s turbulent world a boring election is quite remarkable. Chancellor Angela Merkel “represents the state of the permanent present” that voters in smooth-running Germany desire.
Is the Air Berlin bankruptcy being manipulated in favour of Lufthansa? Ryanair is accusing the German authorities of helping Lufthansa take over Air Berlin, which would result in them grabbing 95% of domestic German air travel.
The Tegel referendum is on the same day as the election. To quell concerns about the capacity of the new BER airport, BER’s manager has released an expansion plan. BER will grow from 22 to 55 million by 2040, with new terminals. The Tagesspiegel reported that new terminals may be connected with a gondola. A soft opening date of October 2018 has been announced.
We update some old stories: The man who kicked a woman down the stairs at Hermannstraße U-Bahn station in December last year was jailed for two years and four months. Our friends at Radbahn crowdfunded €31,000 to help them continue pushing for a bike path under the U1. Volksbühne’s new director Chris Dearcon has taken over and will host his first event, a free 10-hour programme in the Tempelhof building on September 10.
This summer’s bad weather is affecting local fruit supply. Yields of regional apples, pears, cherries and plums are down by about 50%, pushing prices up by 15%.
In other apple news, there’s controversy at the Apfelfest in Guben in south-east Brandenburg. A man is suing the organizer of the Apple Queen competition, claiming the vote was rigged in favour of a female contestant. He said voters were mislead as the winner didn’t have a driver’s license.
English speaking waiters in Berlin are getting on the nerves of CDU politician Jens Spahn, who said they should be able to take orders in German. He also criticized Germans who talk to each other in English as being elitist.
Air Berlin has officially filed for bankruptcy after 37 years in operation. Germany’s second largest airline has been losing money, passengers and their luggage for years. Now several airlines are fighting to buy the scraps of Air Berlin, which owns some valuable landing spots at key airports. The airline is still operating and tickets are still valid.
Meet Diana Arce, host of Politaoke, a cross between karaoke and political speeches. She hosts events where people read topical politcal rants while the audience boos and cheers. Diana is also part of White Guilt Cleanup, a service for people who don’t know how to handle topics of race. Find out more at www.politaoke.com and www.whiteguiltcleanup.com.
There’s a referendum coming up on September 24, the same day as the federal election. The question will be: should Berlin keep Tegel airport operating when BER finally opens? The no camp says Tegel will cost too much to renovate. The yes camp says it’s necessary due to rising tourist traffic. Does Berlin really need more tourism?
The Berlin Senate has finished a new law that ensures bicycle infrastructure will improve. There will be 50,000 new bike parking spots near public transport, including parking boxes. Bike lanes will be widened, a 100km bicycle highway will be opened, and dangerous spots will be fixed. If the Senate fails to deliver, social groups can sue to force them.
Joel’s got a new society startup idea: “Flat Rate Living – an all-inclusive way of life. All services provided free for 90% of your income.”
This episode was hosted by Jöran Mandik, Joel Dullroy and Caroline Clifford.